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Alumni Reunion: Dennis Polonich

Former enforcer played for the Red Wings from 1974-83

Thursday, 01.28.2010 / 1:42 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor |
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Alumni Reunion: Dennis Polonich
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Dennis Polonich was a huge fan-favorite in his eight NHL seasons with the Red Wings. A veteran of more than 80 NHL fights, he never backed down from anyway. Always well-respected and liked by teammates, Polonich was named Wings' captain by then-coach Larry Wilson in 1976-77.

Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
Dennis Hextall is my most common contact, and others are Reed Larson, Paul Woods, because I’m still in the hockey industry and I run into a lot of the guys in the various rinks.

Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
Steve Yzerman, he’s no longer playing, but the way he conducted himself, and the class act that he was. And probably Chris Osgood, he’s a bit of a friend of mine, an acquaintance that I’ve known through the years.

What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?

Probably just being there, stepping on the Olympia ice. I wanted to play one game in the NHL, that’s all I ever dreamed about, so just the fact of being there, pulling on a Red Wings sweater, and then of course when I was named captain. You don’t realize it until later, what an impact it had, how many guys get to be captain of an Original Six team?

Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
Probably Dan Maloney and (Bryan) Bugsy Watson. Dennis Hextall, Nick Libett, Terry Harper, I played a couple years with Gary Bergman, but I’d have to say Dan Maloney and Bugsy Watson.

Who was the funniest?
Oh boy, I think Walt McKechnie was good, and Bryan Watson was a real prankster. I’m sure that they got me over the years, but I was pretty good at dishing it out myself. I remember one incident: I had Dennis Hextall and Terry Harper, who were huge outdoorsmen, they were hunters, so I bought three duck calls and spread them around the team, and we just drove them crazy in the various hotels and airports with these duck calls.

Who had the biggest heart?
I’d probably say Paul Woods was a heart-and-soul guy. Terry Harper, Dan Maloney played with huge hearts, and of course Bugsy Watson was unbelievable for a smallish type defenseman; the way he played, he had a huge heart. … Mickey Redmond was a true Red Wing and a guy that I looked up to.

What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?

Joe Muer’s seafood was great, and on a lower scale there was Joe’s Bar, I think it was on Northwestern and Lodge. They had great burgers and we became friends with the owner. But Joe Muer’s seafood and Chuck Joseph’s steakhouse.

How has the NHL changed since you played?
Business, it’s all business now. You see the advertising all over the rink, the advertising on the ice, the advertising on the boards, the salaries and stuff, the salaries that the players make, the endorsement deals. It’s big business now.

Toughest team (other than the Red Wings) when you played?
The Philadelphia Flyers, the Broad Street Bullies, they had some tough individuals, but when they were together, they became like a pack of wolves really. I used to get under their skin, I always played well against them because I was alert.

What do you love most about the game?
Just the camaraderie, the joking and the kibitzing, and I love to compete. I love golf, that soothes my appetite for the competitiveness, but I just like being around the guys. When you do it all your life, that’s the only thing you know.

Who had the greatest influence on your career?

Probably my junior coach, who’s passed on now. Paddy Ginnell, who coached Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach, in Flin Flon, Manitoba, when I went to play junior. And after that, probably Doug Barkley, who was my first pro coach, and between the two of them, they molded the way I played.

What advice would you give to kids playing today?

Just to work hard. I’m a player agent, I mentor a lot of kids, and when I ask young kids what they need, what’s the biggest skill they need to succeed, a lot of them say shooting, passing, skating, and I always tell them that they need good work habits. If you have good work habits and you’re respectful, you’re going to succeed in life.




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80